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How do unsigned bands get to play at big festivals?

Blog: 9th July 2009 by Louise Dodgson under Live
Source: www.efestivals.co.uk/.../reviews-overview.shtml

So, it’s that time of year again....festival time! And again you are left thinking to yourself ‘Why aren’t my band playing a slot on this stage in front of thousands of people?!’ Well, the answer is...there’s nothing to stop you!

There are literally hundreds of music festivals, big and small, taking place across the UK every year and provided your music is up to scratch and you have experience of playing live then there is no reason why emerging bands and singer-songwriters shouldn’t have a go at bagging a slot on an unsigned festival stage. However, there is no standard way to achieve this across the board. Each organiser compiles their festival line-ups in different ways depending on the size and scale of the event.

To play at big festivals – Glastonbury, V Festival, Reading & Leeds, Latitude Festival, T In The Park – you will most likely be required to register your band details on their website or enter your demo as part of an unsigned competition. You’ve all come across the high profile contests such as Road To V, TBreak and the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition. Yes, the level of entries you may be pitted against is vast...but as the saying goes ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it’ and surely it has to be worth a go! There is absolutely nothing to be lost, and if it doesn’t work out one year there is nothing to stop you submitting your demo again the following year. Unless a record deal and some level of recognition comes your way first, then it is likely that this is the only way you will find your band on the line-up of a major festival so you may as well take your chances!

BBC Introducing stages are also popping up left, right and centre across the major festival circuit and their focus is purely on giving unsigned and unknown acts the chance to play at the bigger festivals in the UK. Their line-ups are selected from the regional BBC Introducing radio shows aired throughout the country, as well as by registering on their website. Again, this is certainly an avenue worth investigating on your quest for a festival slot so look up your local BBC Introducing show and make your band and your music known to them.

A more achievable goal, however, may be the mid-sized and smaller, local music festivals. Although they may not seem to hold the same glitz and glamour of the big festivals, they are certainly a great way to raise a band’s profile, plus they will look great on your band biog.  Smaller scale festivals tend to have many more opportunities available to unsigned bands & artists, and who knows...if you have a few smaller festival appearances on your band’s CV of live shows then the large festivals may be more likely to pay attention to your demo submission in the future.

Again, there is no cut and dried format for getting a slot on an unsigned festival stage as individual events will ask for applications in varying formats and submission deadlines will differ depending upon which month each festival is taking place. Some will be open to submissions from bands across the UK, others will be concentrating only on local emerging bands. The job of booking your band an unsigned festival slot will need to begin tentatively early in the year; researching the various music events in your surrounding area and checking out those further afield then, as application information is announced, making a note of requirements and  deadlines, and the relevant contact details for each festival organiser. It can be a time-consuming task, but one that will pay off in dividends if you do it right.

If you want a helping hand with getting started on the festival circuit then The Unsigned Guide has a section dedicated to UK Festivals containing plenty of festival listings, ranging from the large to the small, to set you off on the right foot. All our listings contain specific information about unsigned stages, tents, opening slots and other opportunities available and how you need to go about applying to play. It could save you lots of time and effort, leaving you to concentrate on writing and rehearsing for those upcoming festival appearances!

Best of luck & look forward to seeing your band on a festival stage soon!

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